Blacksmith at John Deere Historic Site


Take a Step Back in Time. Visit the John Deere Historic Site

The story of John Deere , blacksmith and inventor, closely parallels the settlement and development of the Midwestern United States, an area that 19th century homesteaders considered the golden land of promise. Since 1837, the full story of John Deere the company is one of people, places and products that reflect our core values of integrity, quality, commitment and innovation.

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1837 - 1869

1837 John Deere fashions a polished-steel plow in his Grand Detour, Illinois, blacksmith shop that lets pioneer farmers cut clean furrows through sticky Midwest prairie soil.

1838 John Deere, blacksmith, evolves into John Deere, manufacturer. Later he remembers building 10 plows in 1839, 75 in 1841, and 100 in 1842.

1843 Deere and Leonard Andrus become "co-partners in the art and trade of blacksmithing, plow-making and all things thereto…"

1848 The growing plow business moves to Moline, Illinois, 75 miles southwest of Grand Detour. Moline offers water power and transportation advantages. Deere chooses a new partner, Robert N. Tate, who moves to Moline and raises the rafters on their three-story blacksmith shop by July 28.

1850 Company called Deere, Tate & Gould.

1852 Deere buys out his partners. For the next 16 years, the company is known variously as John Deere, John Deere & Company, Deere & Company, and Moline Plow Manufactory.

1853 Sixteen-year old Charles, Deere's only living son, joins the firm as a bookkeeper following graduation from a Chicago commercial college.

1858 The business totters during a nationwide financial panic. Maneuverings to avoid bankruptcy shuffle ownership and managerial arrangements. John Deere remains president, but managerial power passes to 21-year-old Charles Deere. He will run the company for the next 49 years.

1861 Civil War begins. Midwest farmers and their suppliers prosper during the war years as Army demand and European crop failures boost crop prices. Large-scale Midwest farming develops during the war. Farm machinery improves, enabling expansion even by small farmers.

1864 John Deere obtains the company's first actual patent for moulds used in casting steel plows. Another follows in a few months and a third the next year.

1868 After 31 years as a partnership or single proprietorship, the concern is incorporated under the name Deere & Company. There are four shareholders at first, six within a year. Charles and John Deere control 65 percent of the stock.

1869 Charles Deere and Alvah Mansur establish the first branch house, Deere, Mansur & Co., in Kansas City. A semi-independent distributor of Deere products within a certain geographic area, it is the forerunner of the company's current farm and industrial-equipment sales branches and sales regions.

1870 - 1899

1873 The Panic of 1873, triggered by failure of a New York banking house, begins the depression of the 1870s. John Deere is elected mayor of Moline and serves two years.

1875 Gilpin Moore develops the Gilpin Sulky Plow. It takes the farmer off his feet, puts him on a seat, and becomes one of the company's most successful 19th-century products.

1876 Noting sagging business prospects and skyrocketing bad debts, the company institutes a ten-percent wage cut. A brief strike ends and workers return to work on the company's terms. The "leaping deer" trademark is registered.

1877 Deere & Mansur Company is formed in Moline to manufacture corn planters. A separate organization from the similarly named Kansas City branch, it will become part of Deere & Company in 1909.

1878 The Gilpin Sulky Plow defeats 50 other plows in a field trial at the Paris Universal Exposition, winning the first place Sevres vase valued at 1,000 francs. Unit sales the following year rise to 5,198, and reach a height of 7,824 in 1883.

1880 Wagons enter the product line early in the decade, soon followed by buggies. By century's end, company catalogs will feature Old Hickory, New Moline, and Mitchell wagons, as well as Derby, Red Star, White Elephant, Victoria, Goldsmith, and Sterling buggies.

1882 Deere & Mansur Company corn planters, employing an innovative rotary planting mechanism, turn a $48,000 profit.

1883 The five best-selling products between 1879 and 1883 are walking plows, Gilpin sulkies, cultivators, shovel plows, and harrows. Walking plows account for more unit sales (224,062) than the other four combined.

1886 John Deere dies in Moline at 82.

1888 Steam tractors appear on American farms during the 1880s. Deere makes gang plows that tractors can pull, but not the tractors. The "Steam Age" lasts about 30 years, until the "snorting, puffing giant" is replaced by the gasoline tractor.

1890 Deere's board recommends selling the company. A British syndicate and other suitors appear, but deals fall through, and the company remains independent. The Sherman Antitrust Act passes. Among other things, it makes price-fixing through trade associations illegal.

1892 Charles Deere's daughter Katherine marries William Butterworth, who will succeed Charles as the company's CEO. Charles' daughter Anna marries William D. Wiman. Their son, Charles Deere Wiman, will succeed Butterworth.

1893 The Panic of 1893, touched off by a New York stock market crash, begins the worst depression of the 19th century.

1894 A bicycle craze grips the country. Branch catalogs push the Deere Leader, the Deere Roadster, and the Moline Special. The fad fizzles in a few years. (In the 1970s, the company returns briefly to the bicycle business.)

1895 The Furrow debuts. It grows into one of the world's preeminent farmer's magazines.

1900 - 1929

1903 George Mixter, plow-factory superintendent, persuades the company to install extensive environmental controls in the grinding room.

1907 Charles Deere dies. William Butterworth, his son-in-law, becomes CEO. The company establishes a non-contributory pension plan for employees with 20 or more years of service who have passed age 65.

1910 Directors launch a major reorganization. Its goal is a consolidated entity controlled by the Deere & Company board. The plan unifies factories and branches, anticipates acquisitions, and centralizes accounting and financial planning.

1911 For the first time, the company issues 400,000 shares of preferred stock. The shares are listed on the New York Stock Exchange the following year.

1912 The modern Deere & Company emerges. It consists of 11 manufacturing entities in the U.S. and one in Canada, and 25 sales organizations—20 in the U.S., including an export department, and five in Canada. The company also operates a sawmill and owns 41,731 acres of timberland in Arkansas and Louisiana. Harvester Works built in East Moline.

1918 Deere buys the maker of Waterloo Boy tractors. The tractor will become its basic product. Though 5,634 Waterloo Boys are sold this year, Ford Motor Company sells 34,167 Fordson tractors. WWI ends; of 1,611 Deere employees who served, 37 died.

1919 Labor turmoil spreads throughout the country. A bitter three-month strike over union recognition breaks out in Waterloo, the most serious employee relations strife Deere has so far experienced. The strike ends with Deere remaining non-union.

1920 The economy nosedives. Farm bankruptcies skyrocket as the "Golden Age" of agriculture ends. Famous names, including General Motors, withdraw from the tractor field. The FTC accuses implement makers of price-fixing.

1921 Bad times continue. As business shrinks, extensive layoffs follow. Waterloo Boy tractor sales plummet incredibly, to 79 from 5,045 the previous year. Wages of those still working are cut at least 10 percent.

1923 Deere launches the Model "D". A success from the start and the first two-cylinder Waterloo-built tractor to bear the John Deere name, it would stay in the product line for 30 years.

1925 Design begins on the "GP" (for General Purpose) Tractor, the Deere answer to the IH-Farmall.

1926 Farm surpluses in the 1920s increasingly become an issue.

1927 The company produces a combine, the John Deere No. 2. A year later, catalogs advertise the John Deere No. 1, a smaller, more popular machine. By 1929, the No. 1 and No. 2 are replaced by newer, lighter-weight versions.

1928 William Butterworth is elected president of the US Chamber of Commerce. Primary company managerial authority passes to Charles Deere Wiman.

1929 The "GP" Wide-Tread, a row-crop tractor, enters the market. It is the first Deere tractor with a tricycle front to fit between two crop rows, and rear axle wide enough so wheels can straddle two rows.

1930 - 1959

1930 Consolidations leave only seven full-line farm equipment companies: John Deere, IH, Case, Oliver, Allis-Chalmers, Minneapolis-Moline, and Massey-Harris. Deere and IH dominate most product categories.

1932 The Great Depression hardens, forcing massive layoffs, pay and pension cuts, shortened hours, and a temporary end to paid vacations. A 1920s savings innovation, the Thrift Plan, eases the burden for some employees. John Deere continues group insurance for the unemployed, lowers rent in company housing, and starts "make work" projects.

1933 Business is almost at a standstill. Sales plunge to $8.7 million. Though it is losing money, the company decides to carry debtor farmers as long as necessary, greater strengthening farmer loyalty.

1934 Despite the Depression, the company emphasizes product development. The Model "A" Tractor enters production. A similar but smaller Model "B" follows in 1935. They become the most popular tractors in the company's history, remaining in the product line until 1952.

1935 John Deere, strong in wheeled tractors, and Caterpillar, dominant in tracked tractors, join forces to sell each other's products, especially in California. Strong at first, the link weakens with time, breaking finally in the mid-1960s.

1938 Industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss, working with Deere engineers, streamlines the "A" and "B" Tractors. Henceforth, concern for attractive design joins traditional utilitarian values as hallmarks of John Deere products.

1939 WWII begins. Model "L" Series Tractors, built at Wagon Works in Moline, 1936 to 1946, enjoy an enormous boost in sales after Henry Dreyfuss' styling.

1940 Mechanization advances. American farms grow larger; the farm labor force shrinks. As the decade dawns, some 1.6 million farm tractors are in use, almost double the 1930 total.

1942 Charles Deere Wiman accepts a commission as an Army colonel. Burton Peek succeeds him as interim company president. Before returning to Deere in 1944, Wiman briefly directs the farm machinery and equipment division of the War Production Board.

1943 Deere makes military tractors, ammunition, aircraft parts, and cargo and mobile laundry units during the war.

1945 Traditional company paternalism ebbs as John Deere factory workers endorse unions. Collective bargaining over wages and working conditions replaces a 105-year-old pattern of dealing with workers individually.

1947 The new John Deere Dubuque Works builds the Model "M" Tractor. Two years later, equipped with a tracked undercarriage, the "M" becomes available as a crawler, called the "MC." This will herald the Worldwide Construction Equipment Division. When a front blade is added, it becomes a bulldozer.

1948 The Deere Des Moines Works beats swords into plowshares. A former ammunition plant acquired from the government, it turns out cotton pickers and cultivating tools. Eventually it will also build plows.

19481949 Deere's first diesel-powered unit, the Model "R" Tractor, enters production.

1953 The Model 70 is launched as the largest row-crop tractor to date. Initially available with gasoline, all-fuel, or LP-gas engine, it will become the first diesel row-crop tractor.

1955 William A. Hewitt is elected president and later CEO following the death of Charles Deere Wiman, his father-in-law. He will direct the company for the next 27 years, the last representative of the Deere family to do so.

1956 The firm steps toward becoming a multinational manufacturer. The company decides to build a small-tractor assembly plant in Mexico and buy a majority interest in a German tractor and harvester maker with a small presence in Spain. In the next few years, it will move into France, Argentina, and South Africa.

1958 The John Deere Credit Company, financier of domestic purchases of John Deere equipment, begins operations.

1959 The company brings out the 8010, a diesel-powered, 215-horsepower, 10-ton Goliath – the largest tractor it has ever built. Only a few are sold. Soviet Premier Krushchev visits the Des Moines Works.

1960 - 1989

1961 A new tractor and implement manufacturing plan nears completion in Rosario, Argentina. In Saran, near Orleans, France, construction starts on a new engine factory. In Moline, construction begins on the Deere & Company Administrative Center.

1962 John Deere marks its 125th anniversary. Construction begins on a product-engineering center at Dubuque, Iowa. Company buys a majority interest in South African Cultivators, a farm implement firm near Johannesburg.

1963 John Deere surpasses IH to become the world's largest producer and seller of farm and industrial tractors and equipment. The company ventures into the consumer market, deciding to produce and sell lawn and garden tractors plus some attachments such as mowers and snow blowers.

1964 The Deere & Company Administrative Center opens. Designed by Eero Saarinen, it will win many architectural awards. Goals of the company and the principles behind its basic policies and procedures are outlined in the "Green Bulletins."

1966 A banner year. Total sales surpass $1 billion for the first time. Earnings reach a high of $78.7 million. Farm equipment sales set a record for the fourth straight year. Industrial equipment sales notch their largest ever year-to-year increase. Lawn and garden equipment sales rise 76 percent. Worldwide employment hits a record.

1967 The first industrial equipment sales branch opens in Baltimore.

1969 Overall sales level out due primarily to a downturn in farm equipment sales. Overseas operations expand but do not produce profits. The John Deere Insurance Group is created.

1970 Deere reorganizes its management structure to reflect growing diversification. Three operating divisions emerge: Farm Equipment and Consumer Products, U.S. and Canada; Farm Equipment and Consumer Products, Overseas; and Industrial Equipment, which has worldwide responsibilities.

1971 "Nothing Runs Like a Deere" advertises snowmobiles, a new product of the John Deere Horicon Works. The slogan lasts far longer than the snowmobile line, which is sold in 1984.

1972 Four new "Generation II" tractor models with operator enclosures—Sound-Gard bodies—reach the market. Farm equipment sales exceed $1 billion.

1974 Unprecedented demand for John Deere products, especially farm equipment, continues, but capacity and other shortages appear. Inflation increases costs. The company starts its largest expansion program. More than $1 billion will be spent on new facilities by 1979.

1975 The John Deere Davenport Works, located in Davenport, Iowa, comes on-line, manufacturing industrial-equipment components.

1977 Agreement with Japanese manufacturer Yanmar authorizes sale of small tractors under the John Deere name. An updated Product Engineering Center is established in Waterloo.

1979 Employment reaches an all-time high of 65,392. Sales top $5 billion, earnings $310 million, both records.

1980 A 4-row cotton picker, an industry first, is introduced. Field tests indicate it will increase an operator's productivity by 85 to 95 percent.

1981 The John Deere Tractor Works in Waterloo becomes fully operational. It wins an award for excellence in using computers in U.S. manufacturing.

1982 Robert A. Hanson succeeds retiring Chairman William A. Hewitt.

1983 Severe recession following rampant 1970s inflation crimps the need and ability of farmers and builders to invest in new equipment. Difficult business conditions continue through most of the decade.

1985 John Deere Health Care, Inc. is formed. Its subsidiary, Heritage National Healthplan, grows by century's end into a health-care provider for more than 700 employers and over 400,000 members in five states.

1986 A 163-day labor strike in the United States severely impacts production. Employment at year's end totals 37,481, down 43 percent from the 1979 high of 65,392. For the remainder of the century, employment will remain below 40,000.

1987 Deere celebrates its 150th anniversary. Continued low farm income and lower Deere sales lead to a net loss of $99 million.

1988 The economy rebounds after six years of recession during which weaker farmers, dealers, and equipment companies go out of business. Deere & Company sales soar 30 percent from 1987. Profit, following two years of losses, exceeds $315 million, a record. A joint venture is formed with Japanese company Hitachi to assemble excavators in the United States.

1989 Funk Manufacturing Company, maker of powertrain components, is acquired.

1990 - Current

1990 Hans W. Becherer, president since 1987 and CEO since 1989, is elected chairman upon the retirement of Robert Hanson.

1991 Lawn-and-grounds-care equipment operations in the U.S. and Canada become a separate division. Since 1970 they had been part of the farm-equipment operations. The company acquires SABO, a European maker of lawn mowers.

1992 A program is launched to encourage installation of rollover protective structures and seat belts on older tractors. In 1966, John Deere introduced the first commercially available rollover protective devises for farm tractors, later releasing the patent to the industry without charge. The company establishes eight Strategic Business Units for the first time.

1993 New 5000, 6000, and 7000 Series Tractors drive up market shares in North America and Europe. Among 20 contenders in Germany, Deere moves from third to first place in tractor sales. Lawn-and-garden-equipment sales top $1 billion for the first time.

1995 Deere's strong performance "shows that Deere & Company has become a new company in every important sense," according to the Annual Report. Among reasons cited: product technology leadership, strong emphasis on quality, and improved cost structure and asset management.

1997 Overseas sales top $3 billion, more than the company's entire sales total prior to the mid-1970s. The company obtains an equity position in a Chinese combine company. The John Deere Pavilion, with equipment exhibits and interactive displays, opens in downtown Moline.

1998 Despite late-year weakness in the farm sector, agricultural-equipment sales hit a record. Company net earnings reach $1 billion for the first time. Cameco Industries, producer of sugarcane-harvesting equipment, is acquired. Work begins on a new tractor-manufacturing facility in Pune, India.

1999 While challenging by financial standards, 1999 is a breakthrough year for John Deere. Not only does the company record a meaningful profit in the face of a major downturn in the farm economy, but the actions of recent years to create a more-resilient world-class enterprise successfully faced their first severe test. Special Technologies Group is formed.

2000 Hans Becherer reaches retirement, and Robert W. Lane is elected CEO. Deere acquires Timberjack, a world-leading producer of forestry equipment. A new tractor plant is opened near Pune, India. Credit offices are established in Argentina and Brazil. Deere is granted banking license in Luxembourg, allowing John Deere Credit ability to finance equipment throughout Europe.

2001 John Deere Landscapes is formed through acquisitions of McGinnis Farms and Century Rain Aid.

2003 Through agreement with The Home Depot, riding mowers are sold in the mass channel for the first time in company history. John Deere-branded Deere's small/diverse supplier programs received a first-ever rating of "highly successful" from the U.S. Department of Defense. Driven by gains in Deere's Commercial & Consumer Equipment and Construction & Forestry Divisions, the company's earnings double for 2003; equipment sales grow 14 percent.

2004 Record full-year earnings of $1.406 billion are more than twice the level of 2003 earnings. Deere & Company announces plans to build a new tractor factory in Montenegro, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. The facility is expected to be in full production by the second half of 2006.

2005 Deere & Company opens a seeding-equipment assembly operation in Orenburg, Russia, and establishes a dealer network. The company additionally announces plans to build a new engineering and information-technology support center near the John Deere joint venture tractor manufacturing facility in Pune, India. John Deere invests in wind energy projects in the rural United States and establishes a new wind energy business unit managed by John Deere Credit.

2006 Growing global market presence helps drive earnings to record $1.69 billion; Chairman & CEO Robert W. Lane named "CEO of the Year" by Industry Week magazine. John Deere Landscapes becomes the number-one wholesale distributor of irrigation, nursery, lighting and landscape materials in the United States. John Deere Tianjin Works, a new transmission factory in Tianjin, China, opens.

2007 Deere & Company stockholders approve a two-for-one stock split, increasing the number of common shares to 1,200 million shares. A new tractor manufacturing facility is acquired in Ningbo, China. Deere & Company completes its acquisition of LESCO, Inc., a leading supplier of lawn care, landscape, golf course and pest control products. John Deere is chosen by Ethisphere magazine for its list of the World's 100 Most Ethical Companies.

2008 Deere & Company enters into joint ventures with construction equipment manufacturers in China and India. Deere announces plans to build a distribution, replacement parts and training center in Russia, a European Technology & Innovation Center in Germany, and a marketing office in Kiev, Ukraine. John Deere Water business expands with the company's acquisition of irrigation products manufacturers T-Systems International and Plastro Irrigation Systems.

2009 Samuel R. Allen is named John Deere's ninth chief executive officer. A new global operating model combines the technology, expertise, experience, channels and investments of the Worldwide Agricultural Equipment Division and Worldwide Commercial & Consumer Equipment Division into a single unit called the Agriculture and Turf Division. A joint venture in India is formed with Ashok Leyland Limited to manufacture backhoes and four-wheel-drive loaders.

2010 John Deere expands the company’s presence in Europe and CIS markets by adding new facilities. The European Technology Innovation Center (ETIC) opens in Kaiserslautern (Germany) to become a European epicenter for the development of intelligent solutions and advanced engineering projects. In Domodedovo, South of Moscow (Russia), John Deere inaugurates an assembly plant for the manufacturing of large horsepower tractors, combines and for construction & forestry equipment. The new facility also accommodates John Deere’s Eurasian Parts Distribution Center.

2011 With the opening of a new deconsolidation and packaging center in Bruchsal John Deere adds efficiency and capacity to its spare parts services. Recognizing the rapid growth of John Deere’s equipment portfolio the center helps to improve the handling and fast delivery of dealers orders

2012 John Deere celebrates its 175th anniversary. Open house and family days in many John Deere facilities commemorate the company’s long and successful history. The year concludes with sales of $ 36.2 billion and an income of $ 3.1 billion.

2013 John Deere’s Region 2 (Europe, CIS, Northern Africa, Near & Middle East) celebrates a major product launch of its Agriculture & Turf Division in Berlin and Brandenburg (Germany). Deere& Company concludes a record year with sales of $ 37.8 billion and a net income of $ 3.5 billion US-$.